Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.SECTION IV
THE COMPLAINT OF THE HELLENISTS THAT THEIR WIDOWS WERE NEGLECTED WHEN RELIEF WAS GIVEN TO THE POOR, INDUCES THE APOSTLES TO DIRECT THAT SEVEN MEN SHOULD BE CHOSEN AND APPOINTED FOR THIS SERVICE. THE CONTINUED GROWTH OF THE CHURCH.
1And [But] in those [these] days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied [when the disciples increased in number], there arose a murmuring of the Grecians [Grecian Jews] against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected [overlooked]in the daily ministration.2Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them [disciples together], and said, It is not reason [not pleasing (to us)] that we should leavethe word of God, and serve [the] tables.3Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report [men having good witness], full of the Holy Ghost1 [of theSpirit] and wisdom, whom we may [will] appoint2 over this business. 4But we will give ourselves continually to [will persevere in] prayer, and to [in] the ministry of theword. 5And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon,and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch;6Whom they set before theapostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. 7And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied [became very great] in Jerusalem greatly [om. greatly]; and a great company of the priests3 were [became] obedient to the faith.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 6:1. a. But in those days.—An evil of considerable magnitude suddenly manifested itself precisely at this period, when the faith of the apostles revealed its power by enabling them to suffer shame for Christ’s sake, and to preach the Gospel with boldness, notwithstanding the threats of the magistrates; the word, moreover, was received by increasing numbers, so that the Church was making rapid progress. This evil was the more alarming, as it originated in the bosom of the Church itself. The threats which external foes uttered, created less apprehension than an internal danger: the former proceeded from avowed enemies; the latter arose among the members themselves. The facility with which impure elements could become associated in the Church with the pure, was proportioned to its numerical increase. And when the provision which was made for the poor became more and more ample, this circumstance itself may have attracted many needy persons; if these united with the Church from selfish considerations and with hopes that were too eager, a serious disappointment naturally awaited them.
b. There arose a murmuring.—The discontent, which was at first indistinctly manifested, but was at length loudly expressed, prevailed among the “Hellenists,” and was occasioned by the “Hebrews” (πρὸς τ. Ἑβρ.). It was here that a certain distinction revealed itself among the members of the Church, which threatened to assume the character of a direct opposition, and to terminate in a rupture. One part consisted of Hebrews, that is, of Christians who were originally Palestinian Jews, residents of the Holy Land, and who spoke the Hebrew, i.e., the Aramæan [Syro-Chaldaic] language. The other part consisted of Christians who were not natives of Palestine, but came from other countries, e. g., Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, etc., and whose native language was the Greek; these men were termed Hellenists. The great majority of the latter were, without doubt, also Jews by birth; it is, however, quite possible that there may have been some individuals among them, who were Gentiles by birth, but who had been previously incorporated as proselytes with the people of Israel. Such was Nicolas of Antioch, who is expressly described in Acts 6:5 as a προςήλυτος. The Jews who were natives of Palestine, and who, without doubt, composed the great majority of the Christians, were led by their education and general mode of life, to retain the peculiar features of Judaism with more purity and strictness than the Hellenists. The latter, the descendants of foreign Jews, and the inhabitants of pagan countries, adopted not only the Greek language, but also, unconsciously, foreign usages, and specially, Greek customs, which they combined with the forms of Judaism.
c. Because their widows, etc.—The immediate cause which led to the discontent and jealousy with which the Hellenists regarded the Palestinian Judæo-Christians, was connected with the daily ministration [distribution of food, and, possibly, also of alms, (de Wette; Hack.)—TR.]; the widows of the Hellenistic Judæo-Christians were overlooked at such times, and this evil appears to have prevailed during a considerable period (imperf. παρεθεωροῦντο.) [For the N. T. usage of the Imperf., to denote continued, repeated, or customary action, see WINER: Gram. N. T., § 40. 3.—TR.]. The widows are not here mentioned as representatives of all the poor (Olsh.); we may, on the contrary, easily imagine that widows would be more readily overlooked than entire families, since the Hellenistic father of a family would support his claims with comparatively greater vigor, and it was possibly this very circumstance which caused such treatment of lonely females to be felt the more acutely.—The causes which led to this neglect of the Hellenistic widows, can only be conjectured. We have no reason to ascribe it to any arrogant spirit on the part of the Palestinian Jews, nor to any actual ill feeling; it is more probable that the want of a sufficient personal acquaintance with the foreign widows, and with their private circumstances, may have occasioned the neglect of which complaint was made.
ACTS 6:2. a. Then the twelve called, etc.—When the apostles were informed of these complaints, they immediately adopted measures for arresting the further progress of any feeling of discontent, and for removing, at the earliest moment, any cause which might weaken the union and brotherly love of the Christians. They introduced, at the same time, a division of labor, which the wants of the Church required, and which freed the apostolic office from tasks of inferior moment, that were inappropriate and that also occasioned a large expenditure of time. But they do not proceed to action in an independent manner. They agree among themselves that a change is needed, and that a certain distinctly defined course ought to be adopted, and then communicate the result of their deliberations to the Church. But they do not undertake to nominate the particular individuals who are to be invested with the new office; they ask the Church to select and propose suitable persons, to whom they, the apostles, might assign that office. They accordingly called unto them (Mid. προςκαλεσάμενοι) not simply a committee of the Church, nor even the original nucleus, the one hundred and twenty mentioned in Acts 1:15 (Lightfoot), but the whole multitude of the disciples, that is to say, all the male members. The circumstance that seven men were chosen, has led some writers (Mosheim; Kuinoel) to suppose that the Church of Jerusalem consisted already of seven sectional congregations [classes, (Meyer); “familias,” (Kuin.)], each of which assembled in a different locality, and chose one of the seven men; this opinion is entirely without a historical foundation. [“The number, seven, was most probably selected because of its sacred associations.” (J. A. Alexander.)—TR.]
ACTS 6:2 b. It is not reason, etc.—The apostles unreservedly state to the church, (a) what they do not desire, (b) what they do desire. When they state the former, they employ the figure of speech called Litotes: οὐκ ἀρεστόν ἐστιν. The word ἀρεστόν, according to its ordinary usage, is not simply equivalent to æquum or bonum. The course which the apostles mention in Acts 6:2, unquestionably displeased them only because their conscience condemned it, since they would not be justified in the presence of God in adopting it. They did not believe that it was right to abandon the word of God (καταλείψαντας), that is, the preaching of the Gospel, or to assign a subordinate position to the ministry of the word. They did not think that they were authorized to serve tables (namely, to attend personally to the arrangements, and to distribute food to the poor and the widows), if such service compelled them to neglect the great work of their lives, which the Redeemer himself had allotted to them as their first duty (ἔσεσθέ μοι μάρτυρες, Acts 1:8; 2:32; 4:19, 20, and comp. Luke 24:47, 48). It was not the act itself of serving, that seemed to the apostles to be degrading and inconsistent with their position, for they expressly term the sacred office itself a διακονία, ver 4. But they cannot reconcile it with their sense of duty to serve tables—to offer food for the body instead of affording nourishment to the souls of men—to neglect the spiritual charge of souls, in order to gain time and strength for supplying the wants of the poor. It was this course, which, when they considered their first and highest duty, naturally did not please them. They tacitly assume that the method which had hitherto been adopted in providing for the poor, can no longer be observed. The right and the duty to perform this work, had been hitherto restricted to the apostles; charitable gifts were laid at their feet (4:35; 5:2), and were distributed or applied according to their judgment, 4:35. When the number of the members rapidly increased, and the apostles could no longer personally attend to every case of want, they no doubt availed themselves of the aid of other members of the church, without, however, introducing any definite system, form, or official representation. When this informal method was found to be productive of unfavorable results, and to lead to discontent and unpleasant feeling, it became necessary to apply a remedy. Nevertheless, the apostles could not consent to dedicate their time and strength to this business, in order to satisfy every claim; such a course would have been equivalent to a complete withdrawal from their appropriate sphere of duty. They desire, on the contrary, to persevere in prayer and the ministry of the word. The latter, διακονία τοῦ λόγου, constitutes an antithesis to διακονεῖν τραπέζαις; they declare that they wish to dedicate themselves permanently, and with all their strength, to the ministry of the word, the preaching of the Gospel, but primarily, to prayer.
ACTS 6:3–5 a. Wherefore, brethren.—The apostles desire to place the entire charge of the church, as far as its external affairs are concerned, in other hands, in order that they may themselves be unimpeded in discharging their appropriate and sacred duties; they propose that an office should be created, bearing a distinct and independent character, or one to which specific duties should be assigned: this plan was adopted, Acts 6:6. They transfer to others a part of the duties and the rights which had previously been confined to them personally, and establish another office in addition to the apostolate, which had hitherto been the sole ecclesiastical office; so that here they commence the work of supplying wants in the organic structure of the church of Christ, and securing its completeness. They entertained no apprehension that, by adopting this course, they would seem to distrust the Holy Ghost who guided the church of Christ, but proceeded, without hesitation, to complete its defective organization as a society, by creating a new office; comp. BAUMGARTEN: Apgsch. I. 115 f.
b. And the saying pleased, etc.—The apostles, however, do not actually accomplish their design without the concurrent action of the church. They might have acted on their own authority alone, and have been sustained by the consciousness that they contemplated, not their personal interests, but those of the church. They might have even alleged that the difficulty which had arisen, was a symptom of a morbid feeling existing in the church, and that, consequently, a tender regard for the latter advised that the members should not be consulted. They might have entertained the delusive thought, that their duty to the Lord himself and to their own office required them to act solely on their own authority, and in a perfectly independent manner, in reference to “those below them.” But they neither entertained such views, nor adopted such a course. They believed that the church had reached the period of maturity, presented a statement of the circumstances, and proposed a remedy, which at once received the sanction of the whole church, Acts 6:5. The members selected seven men, in accordance with the request of the apostles, and presented them to the latter as individuals in whom they placed confidence.
c. The apostles had previously specified certain important qualifications to which the members were to give heed in effecting a choice. The Seven must be (a) μαρτυρούμενοι, i.e., men of acknowledged integrity of character and purity of life—men of good repute. In addition to this qualification, which referred in general to their moral character, the Seven must be (b) πλήρεις πνεύματος καὶ σοφιάς, i.e., men who had received the Holy Ghost proceeding from the Father and the Son, together with all the powers and gifts of wisdom and knowledge which the Spirit imparted. Why are such prominent personal gifts and qualifications demanded? Not simply because the administration of the property of the church was to be intrusted to these officers, but, undoubtedly, also for the following reason: their duties were not to be restricted to the supply of physical wants and the direction of purely temporal interests; they would be specially required to provide likewise for the spiritual wants of the poor, and, generally, to promote the spiritual interests of the church. The apostles desire to occupy a position which will enable them to fulfil their official duties with entire freedom, and to dedicate themselves wholly to prayer and the ministry of the word; but they certainly do not intend to free themselves entirely from the care of temporal affairs. The seven men, on their part, are, primarily, to take charge of the poor, as well as of the temporal affairs of the church in general; but it is certainly not intended that they should be excluded from all participation in the spiritual labors of the apostles.
d. The names of the seven men chosen by the church, are given in full. The most prominent of the number is Stephen, who is described as “a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost”, and to his history Luke devotes the second part of the present chapter, and the whole of the next. It is in the highest degree improbable that πίστις should here mean simply fidelity and conscientiousness (Kuinoel); the term rather denotes Stephen’s positive religious and Christian life of faith. It was doubtless this fully developed spiritual character that attracted general notice, and induced the church to nominate him as the first of the seven.—It is admitted by all that Philip is the same individual, who, after the death of Stephen, preached the Gospel in Samaria (Acts 8:5 ff.), and, at a certain point between Jerusalem and Gaza, baptized a man of Meroe, an officer at the court of Candace (Acts 8:26 ff.). He is again mentioned in Acts 21:8 f., as an “evangelist”, and expressly described as “one of the seven.” We are entirely unacquainted with the history of the other five persons. The legendary accounts which have been preserved (e. g., that this or that one had belonged to the company of the seventy disciples of Jesus, or had, at a later period, been invested with the office of a bishop in a certain place), are entitled to no consideration. The statement that Nicolas was a proselyte of Antioch, is remarkable. It is possible that the one or the other of the rest was a Pagan by birth, and had been incorporated with the people of Israel (after being circumcised and offering sacrifices), before he received the Christian faith; but Nicolas alone is distinctly stated to have been a proselyte. It is a mere conjecture, supported by no evidence, (although expressed as early as the age of Irenæus [adv. Hær. II., 27]), and suggested only by a combination of Rev. 2:15 with the present text, that he became the head of a sect at a later period, and was the founder of that of the Nicolaitans.—The circumstance that the seven names are all Greek, has led to various conclusions, e. g., that the seven men were not Jews who had been born in Palestine, but Hellenists. Those writers who assume that all the seven were Hellenists, differ in their ultimate conclusions. Some regard the fact as a proof of the impartiality or magnanimity of the Hebrews, who wished to remove every cause of complaint on the part of the Hellenists by selecting the seven from the whole number of the latter. (Rothe). Others suppose that these seven were chosen exclusively for the service of the Hellenistic portion of the church, and that διάκονοι [which title, however, does not once occur in the whole Book of the Acts (J. A. Alex.)—TR.] had been already appointed for the Hebrews, at an earlier period (Vitringa, Mosheim). Neither of these conjectures is supported by historical evidence, and, indeed, Greek names were, at that time, quite common among the Hebrews [e. g., one or more of the apostles. (de Wette).—TR.]. It is probable that some of the Seven were Hebrews, and the rest, Hellenists.
ACTS 6:6. Whom they set, etc.—The men that had been chosen by the church, were now presented to the apostles, who conferred the new office upon them, and solemnly installed them with prayer and the imposition of hands. They first offered prayer, in conjunction with the church, in behalf of the men, entreating that the grace and the gifts of God in Christ, might be imparted to the latter; for the call to serve the disciples and especially the poor, was in truth a call to serve God in the persons of the the latter [Mt. 25:40], and from Him alone, the endowments and fitness, the blessing and the increase could come. Then the apostles laid their hands on the men, by which act they consecrated and blessed them, and transferred an office with which they had themselves been hitherto invested.
ACTS 6:7. And the word of God increased.—The internal danger of the church, which had threatened to terminate in a rupture, was, no doubt, happily averted by the adoption of the measure already described. The remedy appears to have been adequate; it was successfully employed, in consequence both of the appeal which the apostles had made to the religious principles of the members of the church, and of the vigorous aid which they received from the Seven. These men, whose labors were attended with the divine blessing, were powerfully sustained by the consciousness that they were rightfully engaged and walking in the path of duty. It is true that Luke does not distinctly state these facts, but they are implied by another and still more striking result which he records. The more successfully the unity of the Spirit was kept in the bond of peace [Eph. 4:3], the more rapidly the word of God increased; that unity produced a powerful effect on the minds and hearts of others, and many individuals, as a consequence, received the truth in faith; the number of Christians in Jerusalem rapidly increased, and a great company even of the priests ὑπήκουον τῇ πίστει. This expression describes their conversion as an act of obedience to the gracious will of God in Christ; its introduction here is the more appropriate, as it was precisely in the case of priests that a firm resolution, or a positive determination of the will, was most of all needed, in surmounting the prejudices peculiar to their order, and in offering worship to the Crucified One, the sole Mediator and Priest. It was only a very deep conviction, expressed in the words; “It is the will of God!”, and a very sincere purpose to obey God, that could have produced such a result.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
I. The difficulty which occurred in the bosom of the church, between the Hellenists and the Hebrews, assumes a typical character. The first internal danger originated in the hypocrisy and selfishness of a certain man and his wife, Acts 5:1 ff. The present danger proceeded from the association of two companies, each of which was compacted by identity of language and of national customs and manners; hence the spirit of party, roused by conflicting interests, threatened to assume a distinctly defined shape. Such a carnal bond of union may be formed, even in a community professedly established on faith in Christ and love to him, when the natural man attempts to give precedence to his temporal interests, to money or to honor. The regeneration and renewal of the individual and of the human race, is arrested, checked, or, at least, threatened, by the “old man” [Eph. 4:22] who revives his claims. The church of Christ is polluted and desecrated by the world, in the midst of which it exists, and by which it is influenced. If even the primitive or apostolical church exhibited no unblemished ideal, the church in any succeeding age cannot be more successful.—It is remarkable that both of the “spots or wrinkles” [Eph. 5:27] which are described in Acts 5:1 ff. and Acts 6:1 ff., are found precisely in that feature of the primitive church which was the most glorious and beautiful—brotherly love, reciprocal and self-sacrificing aid and support, the community of goods. It was the most precious and perfect fruit of the vigorous life of faith at which the hidden worm began to gnaw. The great Adversary manifests his presence in a spot where it had been least of all expected, and it is but too true, that “when God erects a church, the devil builds a chapel at its side.”
2. How admirably the present occurrence illustrates and demonstrates the truth, that the word of God, and the word alone, is the remedy and instrumentality which the Church of Christ should always employ. Even when the occasion imperatively demanded that every cause of complaint should be removed, the apostles firmly resist the tempation to engage in labors and business that would have absorbed all their time and attention. On the contrary, they secure more time, and greater facilities for attending to the ministry of the word, which was, indeed, their great vocation. It was their first duty to give themselves to the διακονία τῆς καταλλαγῆς [2 Cor. 5:18]. The word alone, as it is the word of God, and is “spirit and life” [John 6:63], can render effectual aid and confer a divine blessing; and fidelity in its service never fails to receive manifold evidences of the favor of God. The apostolical church assumes the character of a church of the word—the character which every church must bear, that claims to be apostolical. The church recedes from the true position which it should occupy, in the same proportion in which the word of God is overshadowed by the word of man, by ceremonies, by the traditions of men, by the administration of ecclesiastical affairs, or by any mere mechanical service.
3. It is instructive to study the development of the church of Christ, as illustrated on the present occasion. Even as the Redeemer himself was true man and “increased in wisdom, and stature, and in favor with God and man” [Lu. 2:52], so, too, his church is a truly human community. It not only increases externally in age, in numbers and in influence, but it is also appointed by the will of its Founder and Lord, to grow internally. This process may be thus described:—The organization which the church adopts, and its visible forms of life, are gradually developed from within, proceeding from its own centre of life and punctum saliens, that is, its pulsating heart of faith. It is obvious that when the Redeemer established his church on earth, he did not immediately endow it with a full and complete apparatus of offices, orders and forms of government; on the contrary, he bestowed on it only a single office—one that was exceedingly simple in its character, and yet indispensable—when he appointed the apostles to be his witnesses. He designed that other and fuller forms should be developed from within, by the self-determination of the church, and in correspondence to the exigencies of the times; and the primitive office, the apostolate, was so constituted as to expand like a tree, sending forth successively, as its branches, new offices and orders, adapted to new times and circumstances. Christ is not Moses; “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” John 1:17. Christ did not appoint bishops, or presbyters or deacons, either in a direct manner, or by a verbal command; but the Spirit of the Lord, observing the rule of his word, and regarding the times and circumstances, has furnished such institutions, as each special occasion demonstrated to be appropriate, useful, and necessary. Thus the office of the Seven was introduced at the present time in the most peaceful manner. It is, no doubt, also true, that the apostles ascribed less importance to the office than to the character of the men: “Wherefore, look ye out seven men, full of the Holy Ghost, etc.,” Acts 6:3. The latter, as we cannot doubt, received no other name or official title than that of “The Seven”, and no other is given to them in THE ACTS; comp. Acts 21:8. But this administrative office continued to exist ever afterwards, and was introduced into congregations in other places. The act of inducting the men into office with prayer and the imposition of hands, like the general proposition to select them, was voluntary on the part of the apostles, in imitation of models furnished by the Old Testament, but was, nevertheless, subject to the guidance of the Spirit which was in them.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 6:1. When the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring.—When numbers increase in the church, its moral strength and purity diminish in the same proportion. (Quesn.).—The church on earth always suffers tribulation: when external persecution ceases, internal disturbances, of a still more alarming character, succeed. (Starke).—Because their widows were neglected.—To overlook, is human; to correct and improve, apostolical and Christian. (id.).—Even when devout men, like the apostles, faithfully perform the duties of their office, they cannot always prevent unfavorable remarks from being made; 1 Cor. 4:3. (id.).
ACTS 6:2. It is not reason that, etc.—It sometimes occurs that disorders suggest wise measures, and evil practices lead to the establishment of wholesome laws. (Quesn.).—The duty of the Christian to observe proper limits in his course of action. (Lisco).
ACTS 6:3. Of honest report, etc.—In this case suitable persons are appointed as almoners; the apostles do not select men who can simply write, cast accounts, and transact business, but who are, besides, full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom. (Starke).—Spiritual matters must be administered in a spiritual manner; God will examine the accounts. (K. H. Rieger).
ACTS 6:4. We will give ourselves, etc.—The whole life of a pastor is here described in two words: Praying, and Preaching; through the former, he receives from God; through the latter, he imparts to others that which he has himself received from above. (Gossner).—Prayer occupies the first place, as it prepares the way for the ministry of the word; it imparts a spirit and a mouth to the preacher, and an ear and a heart to the hearers.
ACTS 6:7. And the word of God increased.—This welcome fact is another rose blooming among thorns. (K. H. Rieger).
ON THE WHOLE SECTION.
The right mode of effecting improvements in the temporal affairs of the Christian Church: I. What are the legitimate causes that lead to changes? Obvious imperfections and defects. II. From what sentiments and course of action may improvements be reasonably expected? When it is the common object of all to remove every cause of offence, and to promote a spirit of union. In the case before us, no close investigation of the past was attempted, but all were resolved to maintain the established order, according to which the direction of affairs belonged to the apostles. Peter, who addressed the church in the name of the Twelve, did not withdraw his own aid and that of the other apostles, nor abandon the members, when a difficult point connected with their affairs demanded attention. Neither did he disregard the grievances or the rights of those who complained; he himself proposed and introduced a new arrangement in a legitimate manner, and in the name of the other apostles. This arrangement assigned a proper position to those who had complained, and enabled them to combine their efforts with those of others in effecting a salutary change. It was a gentle, self-denying, and kind spirit which animated all alike, and conducted the whole discussion to a satisfactory issue; and it is that spirit, which, in all analogous cases, will always receive the blessing of God. (Schleiermacher).
The first instance of conflicting views and feelings in the apostolical church: I. The occasion which led to it; II. The mode in which the difficulty was removed; III. The blessing which followed. (Langbein).
The appointment of the Deacons: I. The cause which led to it, Acts 6:1; II. The manner in which it was effected, Acts 6:2–6; III. The blessing which followed it, Acts 6:7. (Leonh. and Sp.).
The appointment of the Deacons, an illustration of the good understanding and prompt coöperation which should characterize the action of pastors and their people: I. The guidance of the congregation is intrusted to the apostles; but they listen with fraternal sentiments to the voice of rebuke and complaint; II. The office of the word, to which the apostles had been divinely called, remains in its integrity in their hands; but, for the sake of the common good, they cheerfully resign a part of the power which they had exercised in the temporal affairs of the church; III. The congregation selects from its own number certain men, who are worthy of confidence, and to whom the care of the poor is intrusted; but the apostles consecrate these men, and impart their blessing.
The church, the mother of the poor: I. Her maternal duty: it proceeds, in part, from the distress existing in this evil world, in which she dwells as a daughter of heaven; in part, from that spirit of love and pity, which her Lord and King, the divine friend of the poor, has infused into her; II. Her maternal care: it embraces both the temporal, and also the moral and spiritual wants of the poor; III. Her maternal joy: on earth, to rescue souls from bodily and spiritual pollution; in heaven, to stand before Him who said: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least, etc.” Matt. 25:40.
The poor are the wealth of the church: I. They call her spiritual gifts into action; II. Invigorate the spirit of love; III. Constitute her ornaments in the eyes of the world; IV. Add to the treasures which she lays up in heaven.
Compare the tradition of Laurentius the martyr [during the persecution under Valerian, A. D. 258]; when his persecutors commanded him to surrender the treasures of the church, he gathered together the poor members, presented them to the Roman magistrate, and said: “These are the true treasures of the church.”
The primeval bond connecting poverty and Christianity, a blessing to both: I. To poverty: it was not till He who became poor that we might be rich [2 Cor. 8:9] had established Christianity on earth, that (a) the divine right of the poor was recognized, and that (b) the Holy Spirit inspired men with a sincere concern for the poor; II. To Christianity: the care of the poor (a) led to the development, (from the earliest times), of its divine virtues
love and pity, patience and self-denial, the contempt of death, and confidence in God; (b) it also demonstrated in the presence of the world that Christianity had a right to exist, and possessed the power to accomplish the redemption of the world; (illustrative facts to be selected, and applied to the present times).
The Christian mode of caring for the poor: I. It derives its life and vigor from love to Christ; II. Its object is to alleviate and remove spiritual and temporal distress; III. Its glory consists in rendering services to the church in an humble spirit. (Leonh. and Sp.).
The office of a guardian of the poor, an office of dignity: in view, I. Of its ancient origin; it is the oldest ecclesiastical office, next to that of the apostles, by whom it was instituted and consecrated; II. Of its exalted purpose; it is designed to provide for the body and the soul; III. Of the numerous qualifications which it demands: honest report, the Holy Ghost, wisdom, Acts 6:3; IV. Of the divine blessing which it imparts and receives.
Acts 6:4. Under what circumstances can an evangelical pastor discharge the duties of his office with joy and success? I. When his strength is derived from prayer; II. When his authority is derived from the word of God; III. When his labors are not his own personal efforts, but, in truth, a work of God. (Harless).
Acts 6:3. a. ἁγίου after πνεύματος seems to be an interpolation, for it is wanting in B. D. [and Cod. Sin.], as well as in several ancient versions and fathers; the Syriac version substitutes κυρίου for ἁγ. [ἁγ. inserted in A. C. E. H.; Vulg.; omitted by Lach. and Tisch.; Alford regards it as a “doubtful point,” and inserts it in the text, but in brackets.—Cod. Sin. originally omitted also καὶ before σοφίας. but a later hand (C) inserted it.—TR.]
Acts 6:3. b. καταστήσομεν, which the authorities support, is unquestionably to be preferred to the Subj.—σωμεν [of the text. rec. and Vulg. (constituamus) which follow B (e sil). and H. The Indic. in A. C. D. E. and Cod. Sin., is adopted by recent editors.—TR.]
Acts 6:7. Instead of τῶν ἰερέων, some manuscripts [minuscules, together with] the Syr. vers. and Theophylact, read τῶν Ἰουδαίων, which is to be rejected as a later alteration. [The text. rec. is retained by Lach., Tisch , Alf., etc. The conjectural emendation of Casaubon, who inserts καὶ after ὄχλος, and, as in Acts 21:16 (WINER: Gram. N. T. § 64. 4) supplies τινες after ἰερέων, although approved by Beza and Valck., has not found favor with later critics.—Cod. Sin. originally read τ. Ἰουδαίων, for which a later hand (C) substituted τ. ἰερέων.—TR.]
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.SECTION V
STEPHEN, ONE OF THE SEVEN, WHO LABORED WITH GREAT POWER AND SUCCESS, IS ACCUSED OF BLASPHEMY; HE VINDICATES HIMSELF IN A POWERFUL DISCOURSE; IN CONSEQUENCE OF THAT DISCOURSE HE IS STONED, BUT DIES WITH BLESSED HOPES, A CONQUEROR THROUGH THE NAME OF JESUS.
CHAPTER 6:8—CHAPTER 7:60
A.—The Labors of Stephen; Hostile Movements and Accusations of his Enemies; he is brought before the Great Council, and Commanded to Answer the Charges of his Opponents
8 And [But] Stephen, full of faith4 [of grace] and power, did great wonders andmiracles among the people. 9Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them [who were] of Cilicia and of Asia,5 disputing with Stephen. 10And they were not ableto resist the wisdom and the spirit by [Spirit in] which he spake. 11Then they suborned men, which [who] said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words againstMoses, and against God. 12And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon [to] him, and caught [took hold of] him, and brought him tothe council, 13And set up false witnesses, which [who] said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous6 [om. blasphemous] words against this7 [the] holy place, and thelaw: 14For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall [will] destroy this place, and shall [om. shall] change the customs8 which Moses delivered [to] us.15And all that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the [his face as the] face of an angel.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
ACTS 6:8. Stephen … did great wonders.—The opportunity for working miracles was, without doubt, furnished by his office, which brought him into contact with the poor, the sick, and the suffering. We are here enabled to obtain a view of his official labors, which were so abundantly blessed. We cannot entertain a doubt that he and his colleagues attended to the immediate duties of their office with the utmost assiduity and fidelity, and afforded aid and relief to widows, orphans, and all others who were in distress. But he may have very frequently encountered cases, in which the temporal gifts distributed by him in the name of the church, proved to be totally inadequate. On such occasions this man, who was full of faith and the Spirit (Acts 6:5), did not offer mere temporal aid, but exercised his spiritual gifts of prayer and of faith, and brought with him spiritual aid, encouragement and consolation. And the Lord granted him such grace that he wrought miracles, principally, no doubt, in cases of sickness and suffering. We cannot refer χάρις [see note 1, above, appended to the text] to men, in the sense of popular favor, as no qualifying term, indicating such a meaning, is connected with it.
ACTS 6:9. Then there arose … disputing with Stephen.—Stephen attracted the attention, and, indeed, excited the envy and jealousy of the unbelieving Jews, not only by the wonders and miracles which he wrought, and which won distinction for him, but also by his gifts of knowledge and eloquence, which he employed in bearing witness to Christ. They became excited, addressed him personally, and engaged in discussions or debates (συζητοῦντες) with him. They were Hellenistic Jews, and had previously known Stephen, who was, very probably, a Hellenist himself. The language in this verse [ἐκ τῆς συναφγ.—Λιβ. κ. Κ. κ. Ἀ.κ. τ̣ῶν ἀπὸ Κ. κ. Ἀσίας] is not free from ambiguity, and has hence given rise to many conflicting explanations. Some interpreters, as Calvin, Bengel, etc., suppose that only one synagogue is meant, to which all the groups here mentioned by name, belonged; but this interpretation can be suggested only when undue stress is laid on the expression τῆς συναγωγῆς, the result of which certainly is, that only one synagogue appears to be mentioned. But the words καὶ τῶν ἀπὸ Κιλ., etc., obviously indicate that a well-known distinction existed. Accordingly, Winer (Bibl. Realwörtb. art. LIBERTINER) and Ewald suppose that two different synagogues are specified, the first, that of the Libertines, the Cyrenian, and Alexandrian Jews; the second, that of the Cilician and Asiatic Jews. Winer, however, [who remarks on this case again, in Gram. N. T., last ed. § 19. 5. note 1.—TR.], states elsewhere (Realw. art. CYRENE), that the Cyrenians had a synagogue of their own [in Jerusalem].—That interpretation appears to claim the preference with most reason, which enumerates five synagogues [repeating, with de Wette, Hackett, etc., τινὲς before each of the succeeding four genitives.—TR.]. It is well-known, from statements made in the Talmud, that Jerusalem contained a very large number of synagogues, amounting, according to the Rabbinic writers, to 480. The Talmud specially mentions the synagogue of the Jews who came from Alexandria, in which city about 100,000 Jews resided at that period. It is very probable that the Jews of Cyrene in Upper Libya, where they constituted a fourth part of the population, also had a synagogue of their own in the holy city. When Pompey overran Judea, he carried a vast number of Jews to Rome, as prisoners of war, about B. C. 63; when they were liberated and had returned to Judea, they and their sons [designated libertini, that is, freedmen , without doubt, assembled in their own separate synagogue; the terms employed in the text establish the correctness of this view with great distinctness. (We omit other explanations of the name, as they are all merely conjectural). It is quite as probable that both those Jews who came from Cilicia, a province of Asia Minor, and also those whose original home had been in Asia, that is, the eastern coast of the Ægean Sea [ch. 2:9], in each case, maintained a separate synagogue. The opponents of Stephen, accordingly, belonged to the congregations of five different synagogues, but now collect in two companies, according to the terms of this verse, the first consisting of Jews from Rome and Africa, the second of those who came from Asia Minor. It is probable that Saul was one of the latter, and belonged to the Cilician synagogue. [ch. 21:39].
ACTS 6:10. And they were not able to resist, etc.—The sense is, not that they owned that they had failed to sustain their positions, and, that they submitted to the truth, for their subsequent conduct revealed an increased degree of animosity; the meaning is, that they could adduce no arguments possessing any force, in opposition to the wisdom and the Spirit wherewith he spake.[πνεῦμα, the “Holy Spirit, if not as a person, as an influence.” (J. A. Alex.); “the Spirit.” (Hack.)—TR.]. The word σοφία assuredly does not here mean mere Jewish learning [Heinrichs; Kuin.]—learning and wisdom are far from being identical—but denotes that true wisdom which is from above [Jam. 3:17], and that fulness of the Spirit, which, according to Acts 6:5, was in Stephen.
ACTS 6:11. Then they suborned men.—These Hellenistic men of the synagogue, controlled by a fanatical spirit, resorted to cunning in order to effect the ruin of the man, whose doctrines and principles they could not confute. In order to avoid the charge of being influenced by a revengeful spirit, they no longer continued the contest personally in public, but put forward (ὑπέβαλον) other men; they instigated these agents to circulate as widely as possible the charge, that Stephen had uttered blasphemies against Moses, and even against God Himself, and that they had themselves heard him speak those words. Stephen’s enemies intended to influence public opinion to his disadvantage by these rumors, and also to furnish the magistrates of the people of Israel with an opportunity to institute legal proceedings against him. Both objects were attained. The people and the members of the Sanhedrin were alike aroused (συνεκίνησαν); and this was the first occasion on which the population of the capital city united with the party that was opposed to the Christians. The fact constituted an epoch in the history of the latter.
ACTS 6:12. Came upon him, and caught him.—The proceedings against Stephen were not commenced by the leaders of the Sanhedrin themselves, as in the case of Jesus, but rather originated in a popular tumult. The individuals, however, who had previously disputed with him, and then, by means of their agents, circulated such charges as would naturally inflame the public mind, now engaged personally in the affair. They came to Stephen unexpectedly, possibly at a moment when he was traversing the street on one of his errands of mercy, violently seized his person, and brought him to the Sanhedrin [συνέδριον], of which a special meeting was hastily called.
ACTS 6:13. And set up false witnesses.—These witnesses, who were perhaps hired for the occasion, had previously received definite instructions from the party opposed to Stephen. Were they, strictly speaking, ψευδεῖς, lying witnesses? Baur and Zeller, who reply in the negative, accuse the narrator of uttering an untruth, in so far as he applies the term ψευδεῖς to the witnesses, since, as they allege, Stephen had really entertained the opinions, and spoken the words with which he is charged in Acts 6:13, 14. But the opinion of these critics can certainly derive no support whatever from any remarks occurring in the discourse recorded in the next, chapter. It is, besides, inconceivable per se, that at this early period, a devout Israelitish Christian like Stephen, an honored and trusted member of the primitive congregation, which adhered so faithfully to the temple and the law, could have been impelled by any motive to assail the temple and the law with such violence as this opinion would require us to assume (comp. BAUMG. Apg. I. 122, ff.). It is, further, essential that we should compare Acts 6:13 with Acts 6:14, and carefully observe the material difference which exists between their respective contents. The former contains simply a general charge; the latter supports the charge by presenting evidence respecting certain concrete expressions of the accused party. Stephen is accused in Acts 6:13, of perpetually (οὐ παύεται) assailing the temple and the law, that is, of considering it to be his chief employment to argue, in an insulting and blasphemous manner, against the fundamental principles of the Mosaic institutions. (Although βλάσφημα after ῥήματα is, in this case, a spurious term, the phrase ῥήματα λαλεῖν κατὰ here denotes, as the context and the usus loq. show (comp. Lu. 12:10), that slanderous or blasphemous words are meant). Now this charge is evidently intended to represent Stephen as a man whose sentiments and conduct are all controlled by an active, enduring, irreverent and fanatical hostility to all that is holy and divine in the eyes of every devout Israelite. But no one, not even Baur or Zeller, believes that such was the character of Stephen. And yet those accusers wished to produce that impression. They are, therefore, false witnesses; they are so termed, not because they may have reported any words actually uttered by Stephen, with the malicious design to destroy him (Heinr.), but because, in addition to a positively hostile feeling or a malicious motive, they really pronounced a ψεῦδος. For the evidence which the accusers deliver in Acts 6:14, in order to substantiate the charge in Acts 6:13, and which they represent as derived from their personal knowledge (ἀκηκόαμεν—λεγοντος), does not prove the point to which it refers. We will here lay no stress on the circumstance that this language of Stephen, (which was no doubt employed by him in the course of his debate with the men of the synagogue), was, perhaps, not heard by the witnesses personally, but communicated to them by others, and that, in such a case, they would already deserve the title of false witnesses. But their statement in Acts 6:14, (even if we admit that Stephen had used precisely these terms), in the first place, only shows that Stephen had, on a single occasion, but not perseveringly and perpetually, employed offensive expressions; in the second place, it by no means shows that he had indulged in language which insulted and blasphemed that which was divine, as Acts 6:11 and Acts 6:13 would lead us to expect. The charge may not have been entirely fictitious, but have been suggested by certain terms employed by Stephen; still, it was false, for the words actually chosen by him, were not presented in their proper connection, but were distorted and repeated with exaggerations. [“This charge was no doubt true so far as it related to the doctrine, that the new religion, or rather the new form of the church was to supersede the old. Its falsity consisted in the representation of the two as hostile or antagonistic systems, and of the change as one to be effected by coercion or brute force.” (J. A. Alexander, ad loc.—TR.].—It is obvious that the terms ὁ Ναζωραῖος οὖτος (which betray a bitter and contemptuous spirit,) are not derived from Stephen himself, but are combined by the false witnesses with his words; and, indeed, they do not quote his own words, but report his remarks in sermone obliquo.
ACTS 6:15. Saw his face … an angel.—We can easily imagine that the eyes of all who were present, were fixed on the Christian who was accused of such serious offences. But while they gazed, they could discover neither fear nor anxiety depicted on his countenance, even when the devices of his enemies seemed to be successful. His countenance was, on the contrary, lighted up as with an angelic radiance, revealing not only the courage of a man, a divine inspiration, and holy serenity of the soul, but also the brightness of a preternatural light [like that of Moses, Exod. 34:29 (J. A. Alex.)]. The language of Luke certainly implies far more than that the countenance of Stephen indicated the utmost tranquillity, insomuch that the spectators involuntarily looked on him with reverence (Kuinoel); it obviously describes an objective, and, indeed, an extraordinary phenomenon. If he had been previously endowed with the Spirit, he now received, in this decisive moment, the anointing of the Spirit of God in a still richer measure. That this divine influence on the soul of the devout witness should have manifested itself externally, and irradiated his countenance with a heavenly light that was visible even to his enemies, cannot surprise us, when we reflect that the spiritual and corporeal here act in unison, and especially, that in the most solemn moments of life, even as at the end of all human history, “corporealness is the end of the ways of God.”9
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The immediate duties of the office assigned to Stephen, required him to provide for the wants of the poor, and render other services in the external affairs of the church; nevertheless, he found that duties of a spiritual nature also claimed his attention. This result was natural. When the Redeemer is present with his Spirit and his gifts, and when his church, adhering to him in faith and love, and persevering in prayer and supplication, continually receives new grace, all its affairs acquire a spiritual character, and even the care of its external interests assumes the nature of a spiritual office. When the church suffers from any internal disease, and the “life that is hid with Christ in God” [Col. 3:3], has departed, even the office of the ministry of the word sinks to the level of a mere external and mechanical service, an opus operatum and a trade.
2. Stephen was only one of the Seven, not one of the Twelve; he was simply invested with an administrative office, afterwards called the Diaconate, and not with the Apostolate. Still, he received the gift to work wonders and miracles, which had hitherto been confined to the apostles, and was enabled to speak with such wisdom that he contended with the enemies of the faith as successfully as the apostles. Indeed, the gifts which the Lord bestowed upon him, the relentless hostility to which he was exposed, and the martyrdom which closed his career, combine to place him in such a prominent position, that the apostles themselves temporarily recede from the view. And yet the latter are not moved by envy, even in the faintest degree. They were not so completely controlled by lofty conceptions of the dignity of their own office, as to apprehend that it would be imperilled by this circumstance. The Lord himself, and his honor, were of far greater importance in their eyes, than their own office. And when the Redeemer appointed them to be his witnesses, he did not impose any obligation on himself by which he resigned his sovereign authority to impart gifts to others, to breathe his Spirit on others, or to employ additional instruments at his pleasure.
3. The Redeemer had promised his servants that if they should be assailed for his name’s sake, he would give them such wisdom of speech, and such power in vindicating their course, that their enemies would be unable to resist their words with success; Luke 21:15. He fulfilled this promise with such faithfulness in the case of Stephen, that the opponents of the latter withdrew from the spiritual conflict; they could not resist his wisdom which was from above, and the Spirit by which he spake, and now resolved to ruin him by rousing the passions of men against him through distorted statements of his words and through falsehoods.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
ACTS 6:8. And Stephen.—Stephen, a star of the first magnitude in the constellation of the seven Deacons. (Starke).—He who is faithful in that which is least (the office of a guardian of the poor), is intrusted by the Lord with that which is much (faith, power, miracles).—A single servant who is full of grace and the Spirit. accomplishes more in the church, than a hundred servants who are without the Spirit, (ib).—Quench not the Spirit! [1 Thess. 5:19]. The apostles placed no impediments in the way of Stephen when he preached and wrought miracles, although these were the appropriate functions of their own office.—Full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles.—Observe this description of a Christian who is endowed with life. Where true faith exists, power is present; where there is power, wonders will be wrought, that is to say, results will be produced, even if they are not actual miracles like those of Stephen.
ACTS 6:9. Then there arose certain of the synagogue .… disputing with Stephen.—The most zealous controversialists and most skilful disputants, who select religious truth as their topic, usually have the least religion and faith of all. (Starke).—Men may acquire the learning of the schools, and yet not be “taught of God.” “There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
ACTS 6:10. And they were not able to resist.—“The disciple is not above his master.” Even as the scribes tempted Christ with insidious questions devised by human wisdom, so, too, they approach Stephen with similar weapons. Furnished with all the material which the learning of their schools supplied, they attempt to annihilate Jesus Christ, the hope and the glory of Stephen’s heart. But this unpretending herald of the cross, entertains no fear, for the weapons of his warfare are not carnal; it is the Spirit of God that speaketh in him. They cannot prevail in a contest with Him! (Leonh. and Sp.).
ACTS 6:11. Then they suborned men.—An evil enterprise will always find abettors. (Starke).—Divine truths may easily be perverted; it is not difficult to alter slightly the words of the witnesses of the truth, and then accuse them of blasphemy. (K. H. Rieger).
ACTS 6:12. And they stirred up the people.—This is the first occasion on which we find the people willing to combine with the elders and scribes in hostile movements against the church of Jesus. The apostles in Jerusalem now reach the same turning-point, from which, at an earlier day, the way led to the place where Jesus was crucified. The people had once been very attentive to hear him. [Luke 19:48], but afterwards they cried: “Crucify him!” (Besser).
ACTS 6:15. His face as it had been the face of an angel.—A joyful heart, which is assured of the grace of God, imparts its brightness to the face. (Starke).—The flight of the eagles of God is boldest, when the storm rages most furiously; his stars shine most brilliantly in the darkest nights. (W. Hofacker).—God often sends angels to his church; few there are who have eyes to see them; but there are many whose hands are ready to stone them. (Starke).—The composure and the cheerful spirit of Stephen were generally noticed; they demonstrated that God manifested his glory in his servants, especially when they suffer, and that “the Spirit of glory” [1 Pet. 4:14] rests upon them. We see, moreover, the brightness of his face reflected in the discourse which he delivered; he ascends, like an angel, above all that is human or earthly, speaking and acting with a holy zeal for the honor of God and for the truth, and with a deep concern for the salvation of men.—The glory of the countenance of Moses, and the angelic appearance of the face of Stephen—illustrative of the language in 2 Cor. 3:6–8: if the office which slays through the letter, was glorious, how shall not the office which imparts the Spirit be yet more glorious?—The angelic brightness revealed in Stephen’s face: I. It was the light reflected from the face of Jesus Christ, who says to his servants; “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world” [John 16:33]; II. It was the radiance of his inward assurance of faith, which exclaimed: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” [Rom. 8:31]; III. It was the effulgence of that future glory with which “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared” [Rom. 8:18].—The serenity that appears on the countenance of a believer who has fallen asleep in the Lord: I. It is the departing light of an earthly existence that closes in peace in God; II. It is the dawning light of eternity approaching with the effulgence of heaven.
ON THE WHOLE SECTION.
Stephen, a man full of faith and power: I. In his successful labors; Acts 6:8; II. In his severe trials; Acts 6:9–14; III. In the heavenly light which shone upon him; Acts 6:15.
[Acts 6:1. Dissensions in the church: I. The mode in which they originate; (a) the different light in which doctrines, measures, or men, are viewed; (b) personal offence given or taken, in connection with the expression of opinion; (c) the aid of other individuals invoked, and opposite parties formed; II. Their influence; (a) on the individual (his spiritual life, etc.); (b) on the church (character, growth, divine blessing); (c) on the world (false and dangerous views respecting religion); III. The remedy (example of the apostles and the members); (a) Christian humility; (b) Christian love (manifested in words and acts); (c) Christian faith (relying rather on the divine care of the church than on any specific human counsels.) —TR.]
Acts 6:8.—χάριτος is unquestionably to be preferred to πίστεως [in H; χαρ. κ. πι. in E.], which was taken from Acts 6:5, and is supported by only a few authorities of inferior importance. [Alf., with the later critics, entertains the same view, reading χάρ. with A. B. D. Cod. Sin. Vulg. fathers, etc.—TR.]
Acts 6:9.—Lachmann cancels κ. Ἀσίας, in accordance with A. [D. (corrected)], but the reading is sufficiently attested by the authorities [including Cod. Sin.] in order to be retained; no internal evidence against it exists. [Retained by Tisch. and Alf., with whom Meyer and de Wette concur.—TR.]
Acts 6:13. a. βλάσφημα [of text. rec.] after ῥήματα is evidently a gloss derived from Acts 6:11, and is omitted by the most important MSS. [Found in E. H.; omitted in A. B. C. D. Cod. Sin. Vulg., and cancelled by Alf., Lach., Tisch.—TR.]
Acts 6:13. b.—τούτου after ἁγίου is found, it is true, in B (e sil). C., but is probably a later addition, and therefore spurious. [Omitted by A. D. E. H. Cod. Sin. Vulg., and cancelled by Alf., Lach., Tisch.—TR.]
Acts 6:14.—[The margin of the Engl. vers. offers rites for customs; the latter is preferable. Robinson (Lex.) furnishes, under ἔθος only the three words: “custom, usage, manner.” Wahl’s definitions are: (1) mos, consuetudo; (2) institutum, ritus, and here he cites the present passage. J. A. Alexander (Com. ad loc.) prefers “institutions.”—TR.]
 [“Leiblichkeit ist das Ende der Wege Gottes.” This saying of the celebrated F. C. Oetinger of Wuertemberg (died Febr. 10, 1782), which is frequently quoted, is explained by Auberlen (the author of the work entitled “Die Theosophie Oetinger’s,” 1847), in a biographical sketch in Herzog: Real-Encyk. X. 566 ff. We have only room for the prominent thoughts on which it was founded.
Life is an “essential or simplified” combination of powers, an intensum, externally a monas, internally a myrias, and is manifested corporeally. Corporealness, (or, “to be corporeal”) is a reality or perfection, that is, when it is released from the defects adhering to mere terrestrial corporealness, viz., impenetrability, resistance, and gross mixture; this release will be hereafter exemplified in the bodies of risen believers.—Christ restored the true life by his death and resurrection, and now his corpus est perfectio spiritus; he will, too, restore all things to their proper (spiritual) corporealness, so that God will dwell in the creature in his glory, and be all in all. In this sense, “corporealness is the end of the ways of God.”
Oetinger, (who refers to passages like 1 Cor. 15:44, “spiritual body”, Rom. 8:21–23; John, Acts 6., etc.,) regarded the resurrection of the body as the completion of the regeneration (the παλιγγενεσία of Matt. 19:28, on which passage see the analogous remarks of Olshausen), or as being, in connection with the new heaven and earth of the kingdom of glory, the final purpose of the revelations and acts of God. There will not only be a blessed world of spirits, at the consummation of all things, but also a glorified corporealness.—In the case of Stephen, the author, alluding to Oetinger’s theory, doubtless intends to imply that an anticipatory glorification of human nature, proceeding from the soul, or incipient influences of the Holy Spirit on the body, already occurred.—TR.]