Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Acts 6:1-4 The apostles, that the poor might not be neglected,
Acts 6:5,6 and with, the church’s consent ordain, seven chosen
Acts 6:7 The word of God prevaileth.
Acts 6:8-15 Stephen, full of faith and the Holy Ghost, confuting
those with whom he disputed, is brought before the
council, and by suborned evidence falsely accused of
blasphemy against the law and the temple.
Grecians; these were not such as are elsewhere called Greeks, either as being of that nation, or more generally taken for all Gentiles at large; but they were (as to their authority) Jews, and descended from such of them who, in several national calamities, were forced (or chose) to leave their country, and fly to Alexandria, and divers other places; yet kept themselves unmixed with other nations, retaining the knowledge of God, and coming to worship upon the solemn feasts; only, disusing the Hebrew language, they were more acquainted with the Greek tongue, (then commonly spoken every where), and used the Holy Scripture translated into that language, which made them the rather called Hellenists or Grecians.
Their widows were neglected in the daily ministration; they were not taken, as others, into the college, or number of widows, who in that time had some care of the poor; or rather, because they were not so largely allowed, or carefully looked after; for those that sold their goods, being Hebrews, they might not be so tender over the Hellenists, whose estates laying farther off, could not so readily be sold for the relief of themselves or others.
Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.The twelve; for such was their number now again, Matthias having supplied the place of Judas; this is that blessed number, or the root of it, which God hath so much magnified.
The word of God; preaching of the word, and other duties belonging to it.
Serve tables; either providing for the agapae and love feasts, or distributing to the necessities whereby they might be fed, and their tables provided.
Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.Look ye out among you seven men; as carefully and circumspectly as ye would in any cases of your own concerns.
Of honest report; a good direction, that obliges to this day, in all elections of any for the service of God and his church.
Full of the Holy Ghost; of the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, which were not bestowed on the apostles only.
And wisdom; or prudence, and skill in the word of God, which only is able to make a man wise unto salvation, 2 Timothy 3:15.
But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.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 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:All these being Greek names, it is likely they were all Hellenists, and descended from Hebrew parents, but born in foreign countries; or amongst the Jews they might have other names, which St. Luke, writing this history, translated into Greek.
A proselyte of Antioch: see Acts 2:10.
Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.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.
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.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 Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.Full of faith and power; enabled to preach, dispute, do, and suffer all things through Christ.
Did great wonders and miracles among the people; of whom he cured many; or,
among the people, in that he did these wonders publicly.
Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen.Certain of the synagogue; synagogues were as colleges in our universities, being used for instruction and learning; and were distinguished according to the persons that frequented them.
Libertines; some think these were natives of a certain country in Africa, from whence they were so called; but more probably they were such as were manumitted or made free, (as the word is commonly used for such), and in a middle condition between such as were free born and such as were bond slaves, and might desire to frequent with those of their own rank.
Cyrenians, &c.; the Jews spake of no less than four hundred and eighty synagogues at Jerusalem; a vast number, and probably increased by them: though several places are called Cyrene, this (from whence they took their name) was in Africa in all likelihood, it being joined with that of the Alexandrians. So God pleased to sever the Hellenists, (or Jews by traduction), for the Gentiles were not yet called, that they might all hear the gospel in the language they understood best.
And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.Not able to resist; they did oppose it, but ineffectually.
The wisdom: The foolishness of God is wiser than men, 1 Corinthians 1:25. What then is his wisdom, through which this holy man spake?
The spirit; the Holy Ghost directing him, and putting a Divine power upon what he spake, according to the promise, Matthew 10:20.
Then they suborned men, which said, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God.What these blasphemous words were, we have, Acts 6:14; which show, that the veil was yet over their hearts, and that they could not endure to hear, that the shadows must flee away when the sun is risen, and the types be abolished when the substance of the things typified is exhibited; for this truth was all the blasphemy this holy martyr was guilty of.
And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council,Being overcome by reason and arguments, they betake themselves to all the evil arts imaginable; they suborn witnesses against St. Stephen, as was done against Naboth, and (that we read of) never before; they make the people, and the number, (which is usually the worst), on their side; then they complain of him to the priests, &c.; and lest any, or all these, should fail, they lay violent hands on him themselves. Sin goes on as a current, and never stops, unless an Almighty word be spoken unto it to go no further.
And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law:They mingled in their testimony false things with truths, as they who witnessed against our Saviour had done. St. Stephen might possibly have inculcated what our Saviour had foretold, Luke 19:43,44, and both have been very innocent; for neither of them spake with any abhorrence of, much less blasphemy against, the law or the temple; but in that the witnesses perverted and added to their words, they are deservedly branded as false witnesses. Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, is a granted maxim in the case of witness bearing.
For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.This place; that is, the temple. Jeremiah had foretold this long ago, and did escape, though very narrowly, Jeremiah 26:12-16; Daniel had prophesied of the destruction both of the city and the sanctuary, Daniel 9:26; and yet these were in great respect amongst them: and none could speak more plainly of the calling of the Gentiles than Malachi, Acts 1:11: and yet when the apostles came to apply these very things more home and close, they could not endure them.
And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.With an extraordinary lustre and radiancy, above what appears in men, whereby they might be distinguished, as Matthew 28:2,3, affecting the beholders with admiration; thus Moses’s face did shine.