Deacons being appointed | Acts 6

Scripture: Acts chapter 6

Commentary: There were two types of Jews normally, it seems, ones brought up in Palestine who spoke Aramaic, and ones brought up in other places (such as Jews of the Dispersion) who only spoke Greek. These were known as Hellenists or the Grecians. The Grecians were Hebrews with a background in Greek culture, and speaking Greek.

The Grecians felt neglected and demanded more provisions for their widows; to be equal with the Hebrews or those still following the Mosaic Law. The Apostles were having issues attending to those needs and trying to pray and preach. Therefore, they appointed seven deacons to help out with the everyday tasks (such as attending to the provisions table), while they, the Apostles, could attend more to prayer and preaching.

Qualifications of these deacons include: Men of honest report, Full of the Holy Spirit, Full of wisdom – which is application of spiritual truth, Men of conviction, and Full of faith. The seven deacons were: Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas.

The anointing designated these men for office and representation of the corporate body of believers, which was similar to Moses’ anointing to Joshua in Numbers 27: 18-23, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation. And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation: And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.”

Stephen was preaching, and there were a large number of priests (not Sadducees) that bound closely in ties with the Temple. The preaching of Stephen saw those ties break soon, especially the Grecians. Stephen was one of seven men who administered the church’s work, and he was also a prominent preacher and miracle-worker. He saw that Christianity and Judaism couldn’t be together, and therefore, with Jesus’ death and resurrection, Judaism was finished. The Jewish Religious System, along with laws, ceremonies, priests, and the Temple had fulfilled its purpose and should now have something new (Christianity). When the Jews heard Stephen preaching (especially thinking he was preaching against them), they went and reported him to the Sanhedrin for preaching against Judaism. The Sadducees had an accusation that could gain popularity against the Christians, because they knew that the people wouldn’t tolerate his threat to their national religion.

The doctor speaks in defense of the apostles | Acts 5:24-42

“Now when the high priest and the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people. Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God. And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”

Commentary: Someone had heard that the apostles were teaching in the temple, and went to tell the officials in the prison that the apostles were at the temple. Therefore, the temple leaders left the prison and returned to the temple to find the story true. Soon after arriving, the apostles were captured and taken to the council to be questioned.

The apostles gave their usual testimony of the reason for their faith (see also 1 Peter 3:15). This shocked the temple leaders, which made them feel incredible hostility against the apostles. Gamaliel, a Pharisee, stood up and testified about other people, and told the temple leaders these apostles were similar to those other people who come with their religious things, but if it is not of God, it will not last. On the other hand, if the teaching does prosper, then it must be of God. It would not be wise, he asserts, to fight against God (paraphrased).

Considering what Gamaliel said, the temple leaders warned the apostles again not to speak of Jesus anymore. This time, the apostles were tortured, which appeared to be the first time Christians were tortured for their belief in Jesus. And still… The apostles continued to preach and teach about Jesus Christ in various venues.

Prophetic notes: We see the continual shape of Ezekiel 17:22-24 being formed, as the scripture prophesies that from the Davidic line (of kings) shall God take one, the Messiah (who we call Jesus Christ), and establish a new Kingdom that will bring blessing upon the entire world. The main portion here that is fulfilled is in verse 23, where it states, that they shall dwell in the shadow of the branches. Jesus notes this in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus states He will build His Church upon Himself (Jesus is the rock after all), and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. It appears Gamaliel was sent by God to save His apostles from harm or punishment (as the temple leaders wanted to kill the apostles for their “heresy” to the Jewish law).

The apostles minister, then are imprisoned again | Acts 5:12-23

“And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one.

Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison. But the angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them forth, and said, Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life. And when they heard that, they entered into the temple early in the morning, and taught. But the high priest came, and they that were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. But when the officers came, and found them not in the prison, they returned, and told, Saying, The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors: but when we had opened, we found no man within.”

Commentary: The healing ministry of Jesus had worked through the apostles, as they continued to do many signs and wonders that brought many new believers to the church. The different signs and wonders included healing the sick people and delivering unclean spirits from brethren.

Soon, the apostles encountered the high priest with a sect of the Sadducees, which looked at the apostles in disgust… and imprisoned them again. Then, the angel of the Lord appeared and released them from prison, and then commissioned them to go to the temple to stand and preach & teach. The officials came searching for the apostles, but could not find them in the prison.

In this, God showed His Faithfulness to the apostles, and that He could rescue them at any time. The major portion of development for the church was through the apostles, and without this development, God’s Will could not be done properly. God has shown us also that the beginning is the most important part of the work.

Peter & John released: Provision is here! | Acts 4:15-37

“But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed. And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them.

And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.

And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”

Commentary: The apostles were not taught in law schools of the Jews; rather, Jesus taught them. Members of the Sanhedrin were aware that Peter and John were ignorant of the Jewish standards, and were not aware that they were not allowed to speak about Christ in the temple. Information of Jesus had always been viral since He began ministry; therefore, to keep that viral information from spreading further, gag orders were given. Nonetheless, the healed man is proof that Jesus is still alive and at work making miracles.

The Jewish leaders did not want to punish the apostles; instead, they were given the usual gag order to keep them from speaking of Christ. The apostles, however, refused to obey, but this did not fume the leaders any further. The opposition continued just as people of the Old Testament had done, such as David opposing the adversity of his day. The apostles are to be leaders of change; therefore, some sacrifices are being made to achieve God’s Will. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, the apostles continue their ministry of Jesus’ Messianic Work.

Other notes: Jews do not believe Jesus is the Messiah, because there are a few prophecies that are unfulfilled, in which case Jesus promised to fulfill in the future. Nonetheless, the Jews do not have faith that Jesus was the Messiah, and He will complete the work (as they were expecting Him to already have done it). The prophecies of note are in Isaiah 2:4 (because let’s face it, the world is still at war), the lack of evidence that Jesus came from Judah and directly descended from David and Solomon (2 Samuel 7:12-14; 1 Chronicles 22:9-10), ingathering of the Jewish exiles (see Isaiah 11:11-12; Jeremiah 30:3, 32:37; Ezekiel 11:17, 36:24), etc.

Peter and John arrested and questioned | Acts 4:1-14

“And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes, And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.”

Commentary: After hearing of Peter’s speech by witness of the people in the temple, the priests, the temple captain, and the Sadducees took Peter and John in for arrest and questioning. This group of temple leaders were concerned with why the people marveled so much at their healing of the lame man, and what made that moment so special. Anyone causing a stir in the temple was already to be questioned, because unusual activity can be seriously detrimental to temple life, especially if there are many people praying or doing spiritual things (interruptions during prayer can be angering).

The Jews failed to accept Jesus as the Messiah (Psalm 118:22 => Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7). In addition, the failings of the temple service-members shows their immaturity spiritually. Around 5,000 were saved during this experience, and that means the temple will likely lose many attendees. This was the appointed time for this occurrence. Peter left them speechless, for they could not deny Jesus’ healing of the lame man.

When asked by the priests what name the miracle was done, Peter unashamedly testified that it was Jesus Christ (of Nazareth) whom the Jews killed, and He is the One who is risen and made His People whole (healthy, well). Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone (a cornerstone is the main foundation stone, in that it is set first, and then all the other foundation is measured based on it). Therefore, Jesus is the prime example of Salvation, and He is our foundation – He sets the standard for how our lives are lived. He is the only One by which man can be saved.

Historical notes: The Pharisees had derived from the common people who attempted the preservation of the Jewish way of life, to keep it from foreign or political plans and other forms of corruption (today, we call these “activists”). The Sadducees derived from wealthy classes of people, and were more focused on exercising power and control in the Jewish society. The core difference in beliefs between the two was that the Pharisees actually believed in a physical resurrection of the dead; however, the Sadducees did not believe it (see Matthew 22:23; Acts 23:8). Overall, the Pharisees were quite fond of luring political leaders into their web of deceit.