Stephen Seized and Called Before the Sanhedrim.
SUMMARY.--The Complaint of the Grecians.
The Choice of Seven Deacons.
Many Priests Converted.
Stephen Preaches Christ with Power.
His Controversy with the Jews.
The Charge of Blasphemy.
Brought Before the Sanhedrim.
1. In those days. About that time. It may have been several
years after the planting of the church. The believers had become very
numerous in Jerusalem.
Arose a murmuring of the Grecians. "The Grecians" were not
Greeks, or Gentiles, but foreign Jews, who were born and brought up out
of Palestine, and spoke the Greek language. This class of Jews was
found in almost every city where Paul preached. See
The Hebrews were Jews of Palestine. They held themselves
superior to the foreign Jews, and something of this spirit showed
itself in the church.
Their widows were neglected. There was "distribution to all men,
as every man had need,"
not to those who did not need, but to the needy, and the dependent
widows would especially need care.
2. The twelve. This language shows beyond doubt that Matthias
was recognized as an apostle.
Called the multitude. The masses of the church.
And said. That it was not proper that the apostles should give
their time to these matters instead of preaching.
And serve tables. To look after the distribution of food.
3. Look ye out. Be it noted that the church was called upon to
choose these men. The apostles did not assume the right. There is no
warrant here for pope or bishops assuming the right. The apostles guide
the choice by describing the kind of men that must be chosen.
Seven men. Why seven is only a matter of conjecture.
Of honest report. Men whose reputation was a guarantee that they
would handle the trust faithfully.
Full of the Holy Ghost. Whose lives indicated the fruit of the
Of wisdom. Prudence and judgment would be essential.
Whom we may appoint. Ordain. The people selected under apostolic
direction; the apostle inaugurated into office.
4. We will give ourselves continually to prayer, etc. Observe
that the apostles regard prayer of equal importance with preaching.
Every preacher ought to heed this.
5. They chose Stephen. He is specially described on account of
the glory of martyrdom that so soon followed.
Philip. Distinguished as "Philip the evangelist." He gave the
gospel to Samaria, converted the eunuch, and afterwards lived and
labored at Cæsarea
The others are not again mentioned.
Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch. A Gentile (Greek) of the great
city of Antioch, who had been converted to Judaism and been
circumcised. This is the meaning of "proselyte" in the New
6. When they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. The
scriptural method of inducting into office. The prayer and imposition
of hands was an appeal to God to give the necessary gifts rather than
their impartation. See
Num. 27:23; Gen. 48:13.
There has been some discussion whether these seven were deacons, and
whether this is the origin of the deacon's office in the church. They
are never called deacons, but the Greek word
rendered to serve
is the verb form of which the
deacon is the noun. The usual view is that they were deacons.
7. A great company of the priests were obedient. There was
harmony and progress after the trouble was adjusted. The seven became
preachers and greatly aided. Not only vast multitudes of the people,
but even many of the priesthood obeyed. The priests were very numerous.
says that 4,289 priests returned from Babylon, and they must have been
much more numerous at this time.
The faith. The Gospel, which is faith in and obedience to
8. And Stephen . . . did great wonders. He is the first gospel
preacher, not an apostle, whose work is named. He is also the first,
not an apostle, under the new dispensation, to work miracles. Philip,
also, of the seven, possessed miraculous power
Both received the imposition of apostolic hands. This seems to have
been necessary to impart this power
(Acts 8:15, 17, 19).
As far as we know, it was limited to apostles, and to those whom whom
the apostles laid hands.
9. There arose certain of the synagogue. This was the ordinary
place of worship where Jews met on the Sabbath. The Rabbins say
(Talmud) that there were 480 synagogues in Jerusalem.
Of the Libertines. "The Freedmen." Thousands of Jews had been
carried away captives and sold into slavery by Pompey in 63 B. C. These,
or their children, were mostly freed at a later period. Those of them
who returned to Jerusalem had a synagogue of their own.
The Cyrenians. A synagogue of. See Revision.
See note on
The Cyrenian Jews who returned to the city of their fathers, like those
of other countries, had their own synagogue.
Alexandrians. Jews from the great city of Alexandria in Egypt,
where they were said to be almost one-third of the population.
Of Cilicia. Of this synagogue the brilliant disciple of
Gamaliel, born at Tarsus of Cilicia, was no doubt a member, and one of
the most active opposers of Stephen. See
Of Asia. The Roman province in Asia Minor of which Ephesus was
Disputing with Stephen. These synagogues were all composed of
"Grecians," foreign Jews.
Stephen's name is also Grecian, and he probably preached especially to
his own class.
10. They were not able to resist. They attempted to argue, but
11. They suborned men. Induced men to give perverted testimony.
They determined to silence Stephen.
Heard him speak blasphemous words. This was the charge against
Christ. It is likely that, like Paul, he plainly preached that the Old
Covenant had given place to the New, and that God's people were no
longer under Moses, but under Christ. This was perverted into
12. They stirred up the people. By their misrepresentations.
Thus far the gospel seemed to enjoy great popular favor. It was needful
to arouse their hostility. This could be done by perversion of what was
preached. The Pharisees, apparently neutral since Pentecost until now,
were aroused by Stephen's attack on legalism.
The elders, and the scribes. See notes on
Brought him to the council. The Sanhedrim.
13, 14. Set up false witnesses. False, in that they perverted
what he said, so as to give it a meaning not meant.
Against this holy place. The temple. He may have said that it
would be destroyed (see
And the law. He probably said what Paul so often said. See
Gal. 3:24, 25.
shows the tenor of his preaching. He no doubt did preach the end of
the Jewish dispensation and the reign of Christ, but he neither
blasphemed Moses nor God.
15. Fastening their eyes on him. To see what effect the charges
had on him. One of those who thus looked was Saul of Tarsus. It was
probably from him that Luke obtained his account of this trial.
As it had been the face of an angel. His face was radiant,
either with his own divinely inspired peace and joy, or shining with a
supernatural splendor. I incline to the first view, for had the latter
been the case it would have awed the Sanhedrim, and probably suspended